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A Pub, a Town and the Search for What Matters Most

by Gwendolyn Bounds

Pub Date: July 1st, 2005
ISBN: 0-06-056406-7
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Forced to relocate from downtown Manhattan after 9/11, a career woman discovers warmth, camaraderie and more in a small-town barroom.

Here’s one for you: there’s this tavern run by, of all things, an Irishman. But for Wall Street Journal columnist Bounds (“call me Wendy”), a displaced renter in Garrison, N.Y., after the Twin Towers fell too close to her apartment building, one of the most entrenched clichés in America’s alcohol culture becomes a place of refuge and reflection. As the author plumbs the boozy ambience of Guinan’s, hard by the Hudson River across from West Point, the aging diabetic owner Jim Guinan and his daughter Margaret, a somewhat hard-bitten detective on the local force who essentially runs the place in her off-hours, lead a cast of characters—their customers—who tend to become poets and philosophers instantly upon entry. The good and bad news here is that everyone who has frequented a similar venue to the extent that it becomes known as one’s watering-hole has met and enjoyed—or sometimes been appalled by—people like these. The lawyer, the salesman, the silent war hero, the guy down on his luck, the guy with the bad jokes: all are in residence as components in the slice-of-life Bounds offers with the implication that the reader should look beyond stereotypes, as does she. But it’s not until some 60 pages have gone by in this encounter between the willowy blonde in her early 30s and the predominantly older males who belly up at Guinan’s, that the reader is let in on the fact that she’s in a gay relationship. Later, when she realizes she must, in a lip-biting encounter, explain to Jim that “Kathryn is not my sister,” it provides one of the memoir’s few originally engaging scenes.

Faithful attempt. Still, it could be that you had to be there.